April 25, 2017 0808 GMT
Increased levels of body fat and insulin resistance in children were linked to regular extended periods of screen time in a new study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, independent.co.uk wrote.
Diabetes risk factors including blood fat and glucose levels, blood pressure and resistance to insulin were measured in 4,495 children aged nine and 10 from primary schools in London, Birmingham and Leicester.
Children who said they spent the most time watching TV or using electronic devices each day were found to be more likely to exhibit physical risk factors for diabetes.
The researchers from St George’s, University of London said, “Our findings suggest that reducing screen time may be beneficial in reducing type 2 diabetes risk factors, in both boys and girls and in different ethnic groups from an early age."
The scientists said their findings were of considerable potential public health interest but emphasized further research was needed to prove the link between diabetes risk and screen time.
They said, “This is particularly relevant, given rising levels of type 2 diabetes, the early emergence of type 2 diabetes risk, and recent trends suggesting that screen time related activities are increasing in childhood and may pattern screen-related behaviors in later life."
Previous research has suggested a link between time spent on screens and heightened diabetes risk in adults, but little is yet known about the possible association in children.
The overall number of prescriptions given to treat type 2 diabetes, a disease associated with obesity and lifestyle, has risen by nearly 35 percent in four years, according to Government figures.
Based on current trends, the number of people with the disease is said to be on track to reach five million by 2020, five years earlier than previously thought.
Of the children who took part in the study between 2004 and 2007 and for whom complete data were held, 18 percent — around one in five — said they spent more than three hours on screens every day.
Boys were more likely than girls to spend lots of time watching TV or using electronic devices, with 22 percent of boys saying they spent three or more hours on screens a day, compared to 14 percent of girls.
Children of African-Caribbean origin were also more likely to spend more than three hours a day in front of a screen, with 23 percent saying they did in comparison to 16 percent of European and 16 percent of South Asian children.